U.S. soybean plantings are the largest ever this year — up one percent from last year — while cotton acres are up five percent over 2000, corn acres are down four percent, rice acres are up six percent, and wheat acres are down five percent, according to estimates from USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

In the agency's June 29 report, cotton plantings are pegged at 16.3 million acres; 16.1 million of that is upland, 235,000 Pima (a whopping 38 percent increase over last year).

Biotech varieties — insect resistant, herbicide resistant, and stacked gene varieties — accounted for 69 percent of all cotton planted this year, up from 61 percent last year.

The report noted that Delta growers revised their original spring intentions and shifted several hundred thousand acres from soybeans to cotton, while producers in Texas planted an additional 200,000 acres of cotton than originally intended.

Delta states growers boosted cotton plantings by 22 percent to 4.79 million acres, while Southeast states growers planted 3.8 million acres, up seven percent from last year. Southwest plantings are down three percent, while California-Arizona upland plantings dropped 15 percent due to a combination of low prices, high electricity costs, and the uncertainty of adequate water supplies.

Insect resistant Bt cotton varieties accounted for 13 percent of this year's U.S. plantings, compared to 15 percent last year. Herbicide resistant varieties totaled 32 percent, up from last year's 26 percent. Stacked gene varieties totaled 24 percent of planted acres, up from 20 percent last year.

Soybean plantings are estimated at 75.4 million acres, down 1.24 million from March. Area for harvest is estimated at 74.3 million acres, up two percent from last year.

Herbicide resistant soybean varieties were planted on 68 percent of the acres nationally, up from 54 percent last year.

This will be the largest planted and harvested acreage on record for the U.S. soybean sector, the agency noted. Planted acreage for soybeans has consistently increased every year since 1990, when soybean plantings were only 57.8 million acres. Farmers responding to the survey indicated plantings this year were an average 10 percent earlier than the average for the past 10 years.

Nationwide, corn plantings are estimated at 76.1 million acres, down four percent from last year, with 69.3 million to be harvested for grain, down five percent. Reductions from March intentions were due mainly to persistent rains in the western corn belt and Texas.

This is the lowest corn acreage since 1995, when excessive rains also limited plantings.

Winter wheat acres for harvest is now estimated at 31.7 million acres, down one percent from the June 1 forecast and 10 percent below 2000. This is the smallest area harvested for grain since 1933.